tv Brookings Institution Hosts Discussion on Afghanistan Security CSPAN September 10, 2016 10:00am-11:42am EDT
>> next, an assessment on security in afghanistan. then, secretary of state john kerry on efforts to get a cease-fire in syria. after that, hillary clinton's remarks following a meeting with national security advisers. later, donald trump's speech at the value voters conference. now, retired marine core general and other analyst on the situation in afghanistan. this is one hour and 40 minutes.
>> good morning, everyone. welcome to brookings. we are here today to discuss afghanistan, as you know. in one sense, it is still a hopeful time of year. we are all hopeful. 15 years into the afghanistan mission and 15 years after 9/11, we know there is an ongoing very difficult struggle throughout the broader middle east and in afghanistan is itself. we are glad you came to join in this discussion. there are couple of words i want to say before introducing the panelists. the approach here is to have a broad discussion framed by each of them. we will talk amidst ourselves and then go to you for our question. we all want to commemorate and more and the victims of 9/11, the this -- the families, soldiers and marines.
sailors and everyone else in the intelligence community who have worked so hard, offered a great sacrifice. it is just a day and moment to reflect and honor them since we are approaching 9/11. second, in the way of commemorating big event, i want to thank our -- my colleague who has been the communications director who is leaving brookings after today. we collected a few of the statistics that give a small indication that you can ever use metrics. in her time at brookings of budget has more than doubled.
she has helped to organize 1500 events like this one. she has supervised and orchestrated some 5000 or television radio spots by her scholars. she is going off to work on the important issue of refugees in the future. we greatly respect her commitment to public policy and what she has done for all of us. i want to thank her and her team that have worked so closely with her over the years. a big day for brookings. [applause] as you know, we have outstanding talent on this panel. it is really a treat to not only on our gail but to recognize who we have appear. -- honor gail, but to recognize who we have up here. just to my left, one of the most
diligent and intrepid and brilliant field researchers that i have ever met and been going to afghanistan for over a decade now back to dissertation days. wrote a book called shooting up that talks about afghanistan. this remains a big issue there. to this day continues to travel into afghanistan and wrote one of the best books on the subject, aspiration and ambivalence, which i recommend to anyone who is not read it yet. speaking of the mission, next to her, general john allen, the brookings senior fellow, commander of the international security force in afghanistan from the summer 2011 into the winter of 2013, a 19 month stretch, which was crucial. i want to let you all know this is a lifelong marine who did a lot of other things in the
marine corps, beginning with helping to create the infantry officer course at quantico, the signature event for training officers in infantry in the u.s. marine corps, which did not exist prior to his role in that. marine corps, beginning with him. the navy then trusted him and gave him -- admittedly he was a graduate of an annapolis but then we know the marines trusted gave him the job of mid-shipment . the first time a marine was ever asked to be responsible for sailors and that institution and capacity. that tells you about how much the navy had a high regard for general allen. he spent a time working on east asia issues at the pentagon in early 2000 before deploying. then from that point on, many other jobs in the central
command theater, including general to try us deputy, acting commander there, and ultimately, stepping down from government last fall in a civilian role as a court nader for the president and secretary kerry in the campaign against isis. in afghanistan, he was there during the initial downtime. by comparison, he had it easy. s in as the pete, general they peakeds general petraeus left and , general allen was asked to implement the drive down. the good news for today's discussion, that meant general allen was involved in china -- transferring security. this is the main fighting force at a time when the united states had downsized by 90% and down to
roughly 10,000 u.s. military personnel in the country. coordinating the initial 2009 policy review on afghanistan and pakistan, a role that he played along with richard holbrook and produce the initial obama thinking about what to do with the entire region. that was after a number of years yet spent at brookings where he is a senior fellow today. he was a 30 year veteran of the cia. he played a key role on diffusing crisis in the late 1990's. also, very involved in the middle east peace process. bruce, in his time here, has written very well received books related to the pakistan question. the other one is avoiding armageddon. that set him -- his role to understanding pakistan.
thank you for your and old gents. now i am finally going to pose questions. we will start with general allen and then go to rhonda and bruce. i want to as general allen for his overall take on the security situation and also let you know that in a minute i will ask our newly arrived army colonel. this is analyst going back to their agency and spending a year with us. the eastern part of the country until last fall. with us. he stayed in very close contact with them since then. he can give us a fairly recent update.
first, we will get started. general alan, thank you for your service for what you did in afghanistan. i wonder looking back three years later tracking yourself closely on a day when there have been numerous acts of violence. wondering how you see the situation, the good and the bad and the ugly? how do you feel about the product makes -- profanation of the past going forward? >>great to be back on the panel with you. this is a very important subject coming up on the
anniversary. i remember it very well. i remember being on the ship that day as they were trying to figure out where life was going to take them. i knew where life was going to take them and i knew it was going to take me leading the war effort in afghanistan. you can do part afghanistan but never really leave it. at that moment when i took command in july 20 11, it has been a special place to me. i will take a moment and recall all of our troops and allied troops who parish stiffness but to recall the sacrifices of the afghan forces, the enormous sacrifices of the afghan forces and afghan civilians as well. we said before on this stage and many other places that the long-term success will show that. whether it is a political success or economic success is going to be a function of the security environment and capacity of the afghan national security forces to provide the
security over long time. we can go back and do the forensics and ports -- and postmortem on all the recommendations on the numbers and how they were implemented and where they are. numbers do not really tell the story. in the aftermath and the closing down of the mission and the establishment of support, we have had 13,000 nato forces in theater.
9500 or so have been u.s. at some point. 2800 or so our special operators and advisers. the situation on the ground in afghanistan has changed from time to time. today there is a lot of debate for how you would articulate the situation on the ground. i would definitely use the term challenging. the situation has in fact become more challenging. perhaps even worrisome in the last several months. it is not something that i think will be beyond the capacity of the afghan forces to hold over time and deal with overtime. having been very close to those forces for the better part of a year and a half and having seen afghan troops in combat, many of the leaders leave their troops credibly, not just that the small level, but increasingly at the larger level. regular brigade size operations, i do and still have confidence that afghan national security forces can pull this out over time. that said, we have seen the taliban resurgence be problematic in the past year or so. the taliban in the north have become a challenge. we had the brief moment, near humiliation for the afghan security forces, but ultimately they were able to take back
without significant human crisis and the disaster of the friendly fire on the hospital still, for which we all still regret the casualties. we have seen a resurgence in afghan taliban security. a loss of the number of districts that has forced the american commander in conjunction with the leadership to put additional american forces on the ground to at least forces on the ground to at least hold the district capital. i do believe that we will see that negative trend reversed, largely because the leadership core, the area of hellman, just west of kandahar, has been replaced, and i think we will see improvement in the relatively near future. the previous commander was largely incompetent. the challenge we face going
forward is stabilizing of our numbers to continue to affect the kinds of relationships that we need to have with the afghans -- not just a training world but advisory role to include providing additional air support to the afghan national security forces in ways that we were unable to do before. that will be of a lot of assistance to secure the environment, maintain the population centers and not give up the district. at this point a number of districts have gone into the hands of the taliban more than we would certainly want. i do believe over time they will be able to take them back. let me talk briefly about the
u.s. decision-making. the number we originally recommended and ultimately were put on the ground buried to some extent. -- varied to some extent. that's number was both probably too small and too short of time in terms of the initial obligation of those forces. as late as june of this sheer, year all of the former , afghan former american commanders in afghanistan -- as writing a letter asking to seize the draw down forces in afghanistan until such time as
the new president after the election can have the time to study the situation and determine whether additional drawdown requirements should be met, whether we should stabilize , or whether we should even go up in numbers. my conversations that continued with my life partners still on the ground, about 40 u.s. partners on the ground today, whether we need to go up in numbers over time. in june of this year we asked that we stop the drawdown to admit the next president who will own the outcome in afghanistan the opportunity to thoroughly study the relationship between the security environment, political environment, and economic environment because they are all linked. study the relationship between the three of those to determine whether the nato commitment is satisfactory, both in numbers
and capability and in timeline to support the continued training and operational capability of the afghan national security forces. we will see papers coming out of brookings that continue to be the result of the combined efforts of the general's and ambassadors and scholars who are attentive. the security environment is essential as a platform. we are going forward politically and economically. the security platform is definitely challenged today. i do believe a resurgent taliban and, believing that we were going down to a number that could permit them to affect the tipping point with the afghans, i believe we have foiled that
plan. by staying at the number we are today, somewhere around 8500, and even with the next president going up, we are changing the capabilities mix and increasing the firepower. i believe what we will hold what we are caught, change momentum, and i am pragmatic on the subject. if we get our decision-making right in the afghans are sufficiently discriminating in who may permit to leave the various core and 200 first and 230 core are pretty strong. they are in the east and north east where the pretty big bite is. that is a pretty big outfits. the kandahar region has typically had a very strong outfits. the holman area is the heart and
soul of the taliban. -- the hellman area. that has always been a tough fight. they have fired more than 70 general officers from the afghan security forces and police. that is a good start, but we have a lot more to do. until leadership in command in afghanistan is truly determined on meritocracy, we will have this challenge. it is not uncommon for that part of the world to have the challenge. we recognize this by stabilizing our numbers, our appearance, ensuring the capabilities are the best suited for the needs of the act and national security forces, and i think we will be ok. thank you. mike: thank you general allen. because of the security situation that is so paramount and on our mind today with the recent attacks, i want to give your comment -- time to comment on what you are seeing as well. i wanted to ask you to add your perspective. >> good morning. i would underscore general allen's comments that the security is challenging, very challenging. probably the most challenging
since any time since 2002. certainly challenging from the perspective of afghan people and also from international civilian. it will very much enable or assist for economic growth. afghanistan has become a difficult environment with few people who live in kabul being able to travel outside of kabul. it is not just international. just traveling is a major risk. going up north has essentially become an permissible for afghanistan's. what we see today is a government that is cut off from large parts of the country. the level of civilian casualties is the greatest it has ever been. none of this means it cannot be reversed. but nonetheless, the security
situation deeply intend to and at this point undermines many elements of the economic elements and economic elements and creates very much a stage of found insecurity in the country. i have been communicating intensely over the past 24 hours. it has been quite disturbing to see the reactions from the series of attacks. just the level of going about every day issues has been at the core of challenges and problems. it is becoming a major issue for people. and of course there are different situations.
it is not just about the taliban. it is also very much about criminality and politics. indeed, a very significant elements of the security hampering daily life, and something the taliban can exploit is the number of kidnapping going on in the country. those target international, but also afghanistan businessman. what we are seeing is something
that at one point happens and the height of the crisis when the number of people targeted for kidnapping, the type of people targeted for kidnapping was going down from very rich businessmen to white middle-class people would be quite vulnerable. probably imperative the government takes on the kidnapping, the pervasive criminality. this debilitate every day life. this is all linked to politics and is interesting and challenging situation in
a look tour of reform has been stark for over a year. now they are saying the government should come to an end, that there is no longer a space. it was believed by now he would be appointed prime minister and the system would be changed to a parliamentary system. that was not something he ever bought into. there was a misunderstanding. they are now being compounded by the many voices inside the government. president karzai has been called for the government. that it would be unconstitutional and many fear would not be helpful to the political process. so we are in the state of
watching for the next few weeks how this agreement will be resolved and whether the government will stay in this constellation or whether there will be changes. certainly there will not be elections for at least half a year, likely more than that. meanwhile, there are other politics in kabul and outside kabul. president connithey have tried to fire but have not been able to accomplish that. some of this gameplay friday to actual firefight between supporters of the president and a northern group. i think that because it although it has no lasting impact of the government or how security works in afghanistan, but at the same time, the firefight again stimulated a sense that this may be a preview for disintegration. this raised recent memories of the 1990's.
i believe there is an opportunity in these difficult elements for the afghanistan government and afghan politicians and people. for too long, there was a sense among afghanistan politicians that they can work the ship of state as much as possible to milk greater political appointments and other forms of payouts and politics can be constant brinksmanship and crisis making. afghanistan cannot afford that anymore. it has to be about governance. for a very long time afghan politicians would say it could never disintegrate to the 1990's, it can never go back to the civil war or maybe the firefight is a wake-up call that politics needs to fundamentally change and want the government gets out of the current crisis, whether it is later this month or even later, and there is a
new government and the new government has an opportunity to work with other political power brokers and politicians to deliver in a more robust and less corrupt way that has not been the case so far. >> i think the state of afghanistan politics is or -- is better or worse than ours. (202) 748-8000 (202) 748-8000 that one.leave
i will come back to you in a minute, but i will get bruce engaged as well. i will ask your take on the pakistani angle. anything that you want to talk about. i know that when you did your policy review, you had a certain understanding of pakistan. a certain history. i would be curious if things have gone more or less as you expected. if not, how much is the pakistani role this central determinants duck go much is it more of a secondary factor? >> thank you for organizing this. a pleasure to be here with all of you. let me start with a piece of good news. when president obama announced his strategy in march 2009, it was very clear about what the top goals and priorities of american policy and party was. that was to disrupt, dismantle, and effete al qaeda and afghanistan and practice and. in 2009 that meant primarily in
pakistan. this essentially moved al qaeda from one side of the line to the other side. by 2000 and eight and 2009 al qaeda core -- by 2008 and 2009, the al qaeda core was robust and fully recovered and engaged in a global terrorist operation. in 2003 we had the madrid attack , the deadliest terror attack in western europe since the beginning of the nine/11 era. the london attack in 2005.
we foiled an attack in 2006 to simultaneously blowup jumbo planes over the atlantic. we now know in 2009 al qaeda was planning a massive attack on the u.s. -- new york city subway system, which was foiled. al qaeda was the proper goal of the united states in 2009. 7.5 years later al qaeda in pakistan does -- has not been destroyed but substantially degraded and put on the back foot. it requires continued monitoring and surveillance, but the situation is much improved from what it was in 2008 and 2009. i think there are significant
lessons to be learned. one of them is the united states has to be offense of as well as defense of in how it thinks of the problems. i would characterize the situation as largely defensive. we have been trying to shore up afghan government to shore up the afghan national security forces. that is difficult to do when you basically secede they will have permanent sanctuary in a -- in pakistan. the afghan taliban for at least 14 of the past 15 years have been able to operate out with impunity but patron ship of the pakistani army. this goes beyond simply providing a sanctuary and safe haven for the taliban and their families but active patronage and support. we know the pakistani army and intelligence service actively engaged in training, helping them fund the operations and planning the attacks, including those inside kabul. i think we have to learn some lessons about this when the next president thinks about going
forward. in may of this share president obama has authorized a drone operation as head of the afghanistan taliban. that's mission is very controversial. you would hear people say it killed the peace process and others say there was no peace process to kill. i think it should become a model . i think the next president should consider this and look back on how we develop this for how we progressed against the afghan taliban. we do not need to have the tempo of operations that we had against al qaeda. we are not going to destroy the taliban through drone operations, nor should we try to we should try to disrupt the sanctuary safe haven. in essence, we should take the safety out of the safe haven. this provides a good starting
point for talking about this. there was a pakistani passport provided to him by the pakistani army. it was under a false name. inside, it shows he is making -- have made 18 trips to defy over the past five years and several other trips to bahrain and probably other gulf states. what was the purpose of 18 trips to defy? to fund raise. he was going after 254 repeated moves for fundraising. sympathetic audiences in the gulf state. i think we need to target that as well. i think we need an aggressive move by the department of treasury working with gulf state heart nurse to prevent that kind of fundraising from happening in the future. we're not going to destroy the afghan tele-band -- taliban through that but we should bring a situation where fundraising is as difficult to do as al qaeda fundraising is as difficult to do.
we have had significant progress over the past 15 years. getting out of the business of letting private individual support al qaeda. we need to do the same thing with the afghan taliban. we of course have other objectives and goals as well. one of the most important is to support the entrenchment of pakistani democracy. also, i would say there is good news 15 years after september 11. pakistan today has a thriving free press. not always responsible but thriving free press. i am reminded of your question about whether their free press is as responsible about our free press. we have also seen the transition from one democratically elected government to another democratic elected government. that is a milestone in the history of pakistan's democracy. it should not be overlooked. we have seen them address their own pakistan and go after it in a way which we have never seen
the or. pakistan today is a unique country. a country that is a victim of terrorism. there is a her rent this act of terrorism being carried out almost every day. unfortunately, the pakistani army continues to be a victim of terrorism and other parts of the world. that calculation was going to be difficult to do, but i think
that is one of the priorities the next president will have to focus on when he or she thinks about what to do with that in a fan of pakistan situation. -- afghan and pakistan situation. mike: thank you. for those of you that do not study this thing full-time, let me remind you of the different numbers we are talking about.
basically the afghan army is organized into six main core. these each have a geographic zone. if you can imagine doing a clock wise circle in your head and starting off in the northeast. in the northeast border. 201st core. then we come down south to the 200th or over to kandahar in 205. hellman was added as a separate court later. it got its own number as 215. there is 207 and 209 coming back around. the lead u.s. mentor in 700 americans deploying. he will codirect whenever i get wrong in just a second. these were the largest formations the u.s. still had in the field. most of the others were
counterterrorism that were available on demand or central training teams or intelligence for another kind of institution building mentor in the city. he was essentially in the most forward units the united states still had. that is what makes up the 10,000 strong force general allen was mentioning. so with that, i want to see if he would like to add to the discussion with his sense of the security situation in the ease and the progress of afghanistan army. general allen: i am an infantry officer. >> i am an infantry officer.
from some of the early days to the surge to where i left the country in october of last year, all different missions. that formed the perspective that i would call rationally optimistic about the afghan national security forces and the government in afghanistan, much to what general allen already alluded to. this is my first day working as a federal executive fellow with my peers. so i hope i am not graded too harshly. afghanistan is hard, and it is hard all the time. for all the things the panel has mentioned, the physical geography, issues of cold change, endemic corruption, -- cultural change endemic , corruption, illicit trade, etc., etc. it seems to be more than just a graveyard of empires. things that change have to happen over very long amounts of time.
so evolutionary changes my perspective for the past 12 years. when i was an infantry task force commander and then my brigade experience last year, different expense -- experience. we were there to partner with afghan security forces in a counterinsurgency to help the government reach and makes when the reach to its people as a district level. and also, to help provide sufficient and effective fighting forces in the field with our efforts as a model on missions and operations throughout the country. lots of experiences during the search. people contacted the government, took a lot of effort. it is not three cups of tea in that country, it is three gallons. that discussion and dialogue was very important. i learned a couple of lessons that year. one, there is no better instrument for counterinsurgency in that country than their own
afghan security forces. in the meeting with governors, military officials the afghan security forces could leave the discussion, participate that discussion in a supportive role to the elected government. that was impressive. a lot of the problem-solving happens between security forces and their government without coalition intervention. that was pretty good. however, i noticed the particularly troubling problem that without coalition involvement, coalition partnership, afghan national security forces were very troubled. very hard to get into the field and fight. so i left that combat with kind of you cannot want it more than they do. they have to have the leadership , systems, support, but there will be a requirement for security forces to plan, prepare and ss operations and transition to the next campaign. i left thinking that would never
happen. we spent a long time in western europe and the world -- and middle east after world war ii. we were not on that path in a can a stand. in january i deployed with about a third of my brigade. to the east again. i had been at bagram and our brigade commander in the east. we did not think they would be able to fix this on their own with just us advising and offices. we stayed at the court level. -- core level. that is about on par with the height of the surge forces the coalition had in the country in the first place. so now they owned the problem. then hellman happened. the district centers start getting overrun. there is a resurgent taliban effort. what we saw, which was a good thing because now the taliban is competing in warfare village to village with the same population. the people who picked up on that
request for the afghan national security forces. the comment from the g2 is this is the best thing that can happen to us. we can sit back and watch them fight. so these forces had a problem holding checkpoint and problem holding district centers without a coalition effort. after the setbacks and significant national support from the government and reorganization of the national security apparatus, they were able to re-siege the objectives
and places that were taken with difficulty. i looked around in the east where we were in manga hard, and all the other provinces in the east where the terrain is contentious and population has been compliant and the border sanctuary, very contentious area. why weren't the checkpoints being overrun? why wasn't large swaths of terrain being taken by the taliban and held in perpetuity? i got to talk to a brigade commander in the summer of last year. after pleading for assets for the coalition to get airpower,
which they are still trying to generate that capability, he said we can do it without you. we're too much ownership, this is our country, and regardless, we are not going to leave. between 2011 when general allen came on board in 2015 all of the national afghanistan security forces op -- occupied all of the outposts. in our particular case, they doubled down on that. they made more. for example, the tesh river valley in kuhn aar, very contentious place. when the afghan security forces took ownership of the problem, they saw a different strategy
and light, and they built more roads, more combat outposts to connect the provinces together so the government would start having some security where it never had it before. they wanted that. we told him not to do that from our experiences. they had the initiative and wanted that to happen. lastly, in the east, course get paid, and -- cores get paid to protect key terrain and population. the population center in towns and villages and the people from having absolute chaos going on. they were afforded an opportunity to plan campaigns
throughout the country starting with hellman, and then afghani looked at this on a vtc, and said what would you like to do echo his answer was i want to clear terrain and make sure it is safe from the taliban coming up from the southwest, because jalalabad has had several car bombs and -- pressures on the population. the united states did not plan this. the coalition did not plan this. there -- this was their effort. we advise them a little bit but this was their effort. the corps commander and a small staff set up a base and had three per grade -- three brigades maneuver into that space that was contested by isis and the taliban. the first operation, clearing 167 ied's by themselves with no fatalities. >> the spring or summer of 2015 go >> the spring of last year. the perspective in leaving of may 2011 when they needed us to go with them on every mission and operation just about to
afghan security forces leading a combined tactical effort in the field without much coalition assistance. there were using their own d30' howitzers and clearing terrain in concert to succeed the terrain objectives away from the enemy and holding that with additional checkpoints, with police to follow on the end and governance of the district level to reach out to the people. that is counterinsurgency their way. so i left october of last year with we have gotten a lot further along than i would have thought possible. to echo this comment, i would term it rationally optimistic. it would take international support, commitment to keep the effort going. i think we will all be surprised with the outcome. >> it will take president khani and abdullah. so let me now do a final quick round and then go to you. i want to ask one question to each of our panelists, following up on what you said about going
after the safe areas, as we all know, they are not just north and south and the remote, record -- rugged terrain. this is where people think now taliban leadership is located as well. is there any way to go after them there? any way to go after them there? >> there is. it is difficult. not easy by any means. the may operation demonstrated you can operate in beluga stand. this was good fiction put out by the obama administration to make it easier for the government of pakistan to respond. we were actually quite deep. drone operations will not be a feasible alternative in a major
urban area like karachi. the good news from the standpoint of thinking about how the safe havens and sanctuaries work, you cannot run them efficiently with the top leadership all the time hiding in a safe house. so not only do they have to go out in the field, they have to go out and visit commanders and see their troops, and that is when there is full the ability. we do not need the temple of operations for the cia drones we are using against al qaeda in 2009 and 2010 and 2011. that would be an unnecessary effort. what we need is periodic, maybe once a quarter or three or four times a year, operations against senior afghanistan leadership operating in the safe havens and sanctuaries to make it more
difficult for them to do business as usual. if we let them operate and do business as usual as they have for the past 14 or 15 years, i do not see how this operation will ever tilt in the direction we want it to tilt. general allen mentioned the peace process and the afghan taliban assessment for peace process. i think he got it absolutely right. the process has been why should we engage in a peace process echo the enemy is leaving. sooner or later the americans will be gone, and when they are all gone, time will be on our side. we have to change that calculation. i think the president's decision to leave the troops and was the right decision. i think now showing them the safe havens and sanctuaries are not as a as they have been also tips the calculation. it also helps to tip the balance of power within the pakistani system. pakistan is an unusual country and a lot of ways. it has a civil military balance that is not imbalanced. the military runs the afghanistan war. elected officials do not run the war. we saw that in the peace process. it is pretty clear the chief of army staff was not a supporter
of that. and in the end, his vote matters in the -- matters more than the prime minister. if we save the sanctuary i think we will in the long run help the prime minister and civilian government for making the case we cannot go on this way and we will not secure victory, we need to look for a military process. >> excellent. good morning, everyone.
the army staff. i remember well the day i spent alone with him in his office looking at the border with the intent that while i still had tens of thousands of maneuver troops to include the great italian commander at the time in kuhn arear we had options to run operations along the border to achieve an effect that had been achieved in previous opportunities. i woke up the next morning, roughly the 25th or so of november 2011, and one of my special operations unit has basically devastated to pakistani border post. that did two things. it shut down the relationship of pakistan for the spec commander. it also shut down the ground line of communications, over which 80% of my support came. we never during the time i commanded have the opportunity to achieve the potential energy
of combined operations along the border that could have made the difference that we had hope to. the difference with the pakistan taliban and assisting pakistanis to deal with their own taliban problem in north and south. so we did not have that opportunity. we did have something we have not addressed yet this morning, and i think more needs to be done. we did have something called the trilateral commission. periodically i and until pakistan went silent and then came back up later on my command, where i and chief of staff of the afghan national security forces and chief of the army forces would meet for a day periodically, and our subordinate leaders at key locations and ranks would all meet together. the intent was -- my hope is, and the colonel said it very well a moment -- that it very well a moment ago, my great ambition is that some link there will only be two chairs at this
table. in other words, we can create the cooperation of relationships between pakistan where eventually as we will do what will happen, which is to go to a very small number or zero balance. the relationship is sufficiently a bust -- robust so they can sustain the security of the frontier. that was not allowed to happen during my command for a variety of recent, and i wish we had, because i had the maneuver forces i think to do that. that aspect is absent today in the relationship. yes, we go through the motion of afghanistan attempting to have a relationship with pakistan, chief of staff of the afghanistan army attempting to have a conversation with sharif, but it is not where would have been had we been able to conduct -- cultivate it from 2012 and 2013 and on. we wally provide for the security as we need to in the
eastern sections of afghanistan and federally administered tribal areas, it will only occur if we are able to create a viable relationship between the afghan national security forces and their counterparts across the border. i do agree entirely with bruce, as we begin the process of continuing to first stabilize our presence to increase support , conceivably with the new president doing even more to improve nato forces with nato secretary-general, having a relationship with the pakistani military and being able to strike those taliban leadership and the afghan pakistan to be able to strike on both sides of the border with precision will help us i think a great deal. with respect to the current
configuration and afghanistan, i think we are stumbling along. i just don't see over the long time under presidential system that we can have a relationship between the president and chief executive officer. it was a band-aid to keep the outcome of the election. we may now be seeing the beginning of the cracks in the process that will either if we do not pay close attention and do something to try to reinforce the current real cassation or shifted from the current system it is today, we are liable to see the cracks widen and could see open conflict. i do not think we are there yet, but i think there are indicators that would point to the fact that we will have to see a fall
in political revolution. this was never intended to be a permanent solution. this kind of interim solution under constant pressure and increasing pressure from the taliban naked difficult to govern the country, difficult to get the economy on its feet and certainly difficult to command and control and afghan national security force, which is still being trained and brought up to full time. it's a very difficult situation and was not intended to be permanent. we need to look to getting to a permanent outcome. >> last question i have would be your view of the state of the economy, which is obviously not great, but the production of opium, which is not a great situation either. is there anything useful besides dealing with these broader security questions to help the afghans mitigate the economics and drug reduction realms?
>> let me start by saying this moment, afghanistan and the opportunity with the u.s. elections and a new president is a time to perhaps asking ken what extent the effort in afghanistan is not a military effort to break and defeat an enemy and to what extent is it about a political process and political evolution in the country? i believe it is the latter and even any conceivable increase in u.s. military engagement in afghanistan in the next year will not be sufficient to operate on the basis that this war can be simply about wiping out the taliban. it requires very hard or take nation of how u.s. forces are engaged. but engaging in afghanistan through the prism of politics and government. the afghans themselves need to
predictable governance than governance that is constantly contestable, governance that is weak and handed over to the alc, or governance that is outright discriminatory. for a decade and a half, it was one of the most politically problematic, vicious places in afghanistan and it has not been difficult and the city has been taken from the taliban. the issue of pakistan is very important, but it is almost used as an excuse to not improve politics and government that they need to improve themselves.
the convenient distraction on both sides for perpetuating policies that -- targeting needs to become a political. while it makes perfectly good sense to try to take away the central safety from the telnet and pakistan, we need to be asking about the political implications of that. ask about if we kill this taliban commander, whether on the afghan side or pakistani side, what are the repercussions within the movement? is it going to give rise to a more vicious element within the taliban?
i wrote a piece raising some of these questions. my bottom line is although security in pinches and overlaps everything, security is political. our thinking about the strategy in afghanistan needs to be about politics and governance. finally, to come back to your question on the economy, the economy is in good shape. it was bound to be and is. it is vastly inadequate for a country on the level of development and poverty that afghanistan faces. it might be what japan and other countries would like to have, but it is not sufficient with massive economic shrinkage and contraction, there's no way out of it. sadly, that is one of the reason
s that there continue to be retention losses. this is some good news, namely that the finance ministry managed to raise tax revenues, very important economically and politically, sending some signal that not everything can simply be stolen and hopefully the trend continues. there is no easy way to break from the job shortage we are seeing. and some of the refugees go to europe and those who have been fighting under iran sponsorship in syria, this is the level of options that people take. equally, there are limited options that are very bad and disastrous options, mainly to try to wrap -- to ramp up the poppy crops. yes, the taliban and makes money on poppies, but so do very many others, and it is not surprising. this is the economic lifeline of the country. inevitably, if anyone wants
minimal political support, they need to at minimum sponsor or deeply engage with the opium poppy economy. there are two options available in the current context of security. one is to think politically about interdiction targeting and think about who are the dangerous actors that have access to the poppy economy. it is about who should have access or who absolutely shouldn't have access and who is less dangerous in having access. this is not just the stakeholders and a telegram. there are a variety of political
actors that might become problematic. interdiction should really be about enforcing the stability of a government rather than operating under the illusion that it can alter flows and financing. the other crucial element is to start seriously boosting treatment options for afghans. the vast link is in afghanistan and the treatment center is very inadequate and there are simple steps that can be done on prevention and more robust treatment options. >> thank you very much. we don't have too much time and we have a lot of you and a lot of expertise in the room. i want to ask my colleagues to take notes and choose one question to answer from each
round. let's start with the woman in the second row and then the woman in the fourth row. >> i'm a correspondent from afghanistan. thank you for your hard job in afghanistan, the time you have been in afghanistan was very sensitive. the pakistan policy never gets changed toward afghanistan and there are high expectations from the u.s. authority. what policy is the united states supposed to take to get policy toward afghanistan? and what are your expectations from the upcoming brussels conference? >> thank you for a very thoughtful discussion. as people do not remember, we have been engaged in afghanistan since 1980 when jimmy carter issued a finding. i would like to ask the question david petraeus famously asked -- tell me how this ends?
president donald trump, listening to one of his key military advisers -- i use that phrase loosely. he says he's getting out of afghanistan if elected. hillary clinton said she is going to double down and put more forces into afghanistan. tell me what is right and what is wrong with both positions. >> good morning. i go to american university. i also work for an afghan nonprofit. i have a question regarding opium. the 2015 opium survey reports poppy cultivation is down by 19%, the first client since 2009 and potential production is down by 48%. what do you think caused such a decline in what factors threaten the progress of
limiting afghan -- afghanistan's opium-based economy? >> there is no short-term frame in which the opium poppy economy could end. if our goal or baseline is when we will end it, you will be bitterly disappointed as we have been many times over the past decade. there are several countries that successfully ended opium poppy cultivation. one of them is thailand. in all the other countries, we succeeded in eliminating opium poppy cultivation only to be shifted to another country.
as long as this conflict is on, there will be opium poppies. opium production down by 19% does not mean very much. it has been fluctuating up and down and is driven by factors like overproduction, disease and is oversupplied by the level of production. those numbers, we can discuss the way you are measured without the problem. that is what really matters in the economic spillover issues. there are places opium poppy doesn't have to be, but there
are other viable alternatives. others have returned to opium poppies because they are trying to generate assets that sell quickly. the fundamental question is how does it end? at the risk of sounding funny, it will have to answer to political process. it can't just simply eliminate or wipe out the taliban. they are treating a lot of their soldiers as cannon fodder. fast numbers of those soldiers do not come back, so there are real limits to the policy.
one slow and, a very, very slow and is one where we hold long enough in the afghan government holds long enough until they suffer from their own mistake. hoping that your enemy will make enough mistakes is a risky proposition. i don't mean simply negotiations and we're going to come online, but it is about politics in afghanistan.
it is about ending constant brinksmanship once and for all before and all falls down. no matter what we do with pakistan or what we do with the taliban, as long as government continues to be pernicious, the conflict will not end. >> thank you. >> pakistan is a very complex place. policy towards afghanistan has multiple layers in
the individual actors involved n pakistan's policies toward afghanistan have complicated layers. i want to complement harlan -- i've been looking for months to find out what mr. trump's posture is on afghanistan. he has not indicated the u.s. is going to all out. i thought his policy was to make afghanistan great again by building a large wall on its southern border. now i have found out that is not indeed the case. politics is how this ends. politics inside afghanistan, politics between afghanistan and pakistan, regional politics more broadly. one of the parts of this strategy was that this was not a
southeast asian strategy. we did not try to incorporate the views of central asia in any serious way. the new american strategy needs to do all of those things. i have laid out some specifics -- we need to be willing to engage in more operations. we need to be much more decisive in trying to go after afghan funding and a lot of that goes through pakistan at the end of the day. at the same time, we have to reengage the pakistanis. i would hope whoever is the next president of the united states would invite nawaz sharif to come to the united states and i would hope the next president of the united states will travel to pakistan on his or her watch and engage with them while they're there. hillary clinton as secretary of state went to pakistan on numerous occasions and was very blunt.
she said somebody in the pakistani establishment new where osama bin laden was living and i think in retrospect, she turns out to have been very prescient on that. we also have to realize the next administration is not going to have some of the options the obama administration had. in the first two weeks of obama coming into office, he sent somewhere index as of 20,000 troops into afghanistan. i think that is almost inconceivable that the next
president would be able to do that. almost is the caveat because trump has proven to be unpredictable in so many ways, who knows? he might even be able to pull off something like that but i think it would be very hard. that option i think is much off the table. i think you could make changes in the composition of american forces and change mission requirements, but you are not going to spend -- going to send 20,000 or have the magnitude president obama has unless the situation deteriorates remarkably. something else the next president is not going to be a do is send substantial military assistance to pakistan. when president obama came into office, he was an enthusiastic supporter of increasing economic assistance to pakistan. president bush and president obama, over the course of the last 15 years, have provided pakistan with in excess of 25 ilion dollars of military assistance.
but it just not possible today. the mood on hill about pakistan has changed traumatically and has changed against providing assistance to pakistan, so that option will be off the table. maybe you can get some increases in aid in the economic field but i don't think you're going to be able to do it in any significant way and i think he will be hard to sway this conference to provide substantial military assistance for anything in that order. i think it's going to be a complicated action and i think we need to willie -- be willing to be on the offense and we have to engage hard with the pakistani leadership, and that is going to be a difficult and complicated situation. >> i could not agree more that the solution is a political solution and never were our recommendations with respect to the residual nato force intended
to give the capacity to wipe out the telegram. our hope had been to give the afghan national security forces and the police, to give them the capacity to control the taliban and render their operational threat and potential existential threat to a level where it could be handled over a long time by standing afghan forces and i believe that with the right configuration of allied capabilities and nato capabilities, for the right time and right resources, i believe that security platform can be sustained, upon which the medical stability can move forward. the security platform is irrelevant except in so far as it creates the environment where political progress and stability can move forward and economic stability and progress can also take hold. the other two legs of that stool
can only flourish if we have a security stability that can only be sustained by a long-term nato presence in that country, well beyond 2020. well beyond 2020 and i think many of us recognize we did not get to the point where the armed forces of the republic of korea or taiwan forces or philippine forces or colombian forces were able to achieve a level of stability or capability they could have by being there for three years with numbers that were irrelevant. the only way we are going to be there with capabilities that are
relevant that gives us the capacity to push them up while they are able to build their security platform for stability and economic progress. i don't know what that number is. my suggestion would be the next president, as i said before, take the time to do the kind of analysis necessary to look at the situation in the government and security platform so that they are all looked at holistic way and we can take the steps necessary to put in several thousand more or changed the combination of forces to
ultimately achieve that stability. with regard to pakistan, i used to get congressional delegations that would come through in afghanistan and it seemed to me that taking an implication from bruce's comments, invariably after they would get the brief from me, the intent was to go to islamabad and give them a piece of their mind or move into the normal american punitive reflex with respect to pakistan. i reject that and i advise against it because we needed to engage in pakistan. it needed to not be a punitive relationship because there's only so far we can push until there is something we can lose control of and i don't think the pakistanis even know how far
that could go. there have been help will political developments -- helpful political development that we've seen the change from one civilian government to another, but we have not seen the military abilities brought to bear. but, to be fair, the pakistani military maintains a large component of its strength in the east and a lesser expeditionary component in the west. that is generally not well resourced and they live in difficult circumstances. in many respects, those troops are punjabi and are viewed as a foreign occupying power as much as we would be if we were there. where i think we can make the greatest contribution is to try to facilitate the kind of dialogue and conversation between afghanistan and pakistan that can move us in a direction where they can have a relationship necessary to get a relatively effective piece process going. >> we have time for one final lightning round. maybe i will take three questions. the two gentlemen here in the seventh row and then the woman here in the fifth row. >> a question about the funding from middle eastern countries -- how significant is it, who is doing it, and what is their motivation? >> thank you very much.
i'm with the pakistan american league. i want to mention in afghanistan -- when anything goes wrong, they place the blame on pakistan . in spite of having communication lines open in 2011, those forces killed 37 people, including the commanding officer. they financed the taliban in afghanistan. could they tell us what is the incentive to finance the taliban. i think there should be an approach at all stakeholders should be included in that
negotiation. >> i'm a founding board member of the largest women's group in afghanistan called afghanistan women for women and i have in a dod contractor supporting that. there seems to be an agreement that a political solution needs to happen. there's a large to satisfaction with the national unity government and there are talks of new elections. this is what i have heard from my afghan colleagues -- they say if there was a loya jirga today, they would scrap it entirely or call for new elections. i wanted to get your thoughts on that. what other solutions might work politically? the afghans say if the u.s. leaves us alone, we might create a new government, but if the u.s.
insists on a new government, it might continue. i went to get your thoughts on that. >> one of the misperceptions commonly repeated in afghanistan is a national unity government was foisted on afghanistan by the united states. we have to remember that there were months prior to resolve highly contested presidential elections and by the time the united states was engaging with afghanistan on how to end the crisis, the country might have an on the verge of ethnic strife
with forces mobilizing around kabul. there was talk of a military cool -- military by miserable so far, one of the governments that afghanistan has had over pakistan, which is equally characterized by the government, corruption, problematic politicians, is also that in pakistan, there are military coups, but in afghanistan, we have not had one. should we come to that in afghanistan, there is a high chance the military will fall apart while trying and effectively ending our ability to maintain the current level of insurgency. it is up to the afghans and that just the president, but a variety of key other powerbrokers, who resolve what to do about the national unity government.
cost for early elections are infeasible. there's no progress for that. electoral issues that have prevented the elections were being held will not be magically erased for new presidential election, so calls for that field political tension but not -- but are not realistic. so there has to be some negotiations between the key access. constitutional -- can panels be constitutionally held because of elections, that will be seen in some of the delegates and will not have taken place. [indiscernible] world lack credibility, who alleviate stuck with and with the kind of agenda? there is nothing inevitable that the government needs to stay in
the current configuration, and there is nothing inevitable that it needs to be negotiated. what is crucial is needed for afghanistan to reorganize and the precarious state the country is, and in seven engaging and fighting, agreed to support a government whose purpose will be to deliver better governance and increase security. they can be with the constant one or another. they may be also do not want the u.s. to be involved in that. and, yes, all the time, many politicians and throughout the u.s., 10 to negotiate -- tend to negotiate among the sandbox fights and that is a difficult position. in my view, the u.s. should be
less engaged in holding the afghans by hand. at the same time, i say it's having previously called the most crucial and difficult element is precisely managing the political processes and the many pernicious political processes. i also want to end on although i say that ask end uses pakistan uses afghanistan as an excuse, and the countries equally troubled by poor governance and external politics that sponsored the taliban. michael: thank you. general john? general john: brief comments, vanda hit this couple times in a meant to comment. when i came back from afghanistan and i did my final briefs around washington, i talked about what i believe to be the future. i said that i believed with the right combination of sustained support by nato, they could be able to take care of themselves.
to deal with the threat of taliban, and i believed it then and i believe it now and i think the next president has the opportunity to perhaps improve on that. i also said i believe with the continued sustainment of the afghan national security forces that we could handle the safe havens in pakistan. they would be a challenge. they would always be a means by which the taliban could replenish themselves and recovers capabilities. with the right kind of nato presence, they deal with the taliban in the country, particularly in the east, 201 area, with the depth we are putting in place, and afghans could handle the security situation and deal with the safe havens in pakistan. i then said ellis clear about
this, i believe the existential direct to afghanistan is corruption. until afghans are willing ultimately, as vanda said, to shed their sup interest, unable we -- and so able to deal with the criminal capture of institutions, both at the national level and more importantly, at the subnational level, until we are able to deal with the pernicious nature of corruption, which is both corrosive of democracy, but also an impediment to building real capabilities and capacity within the institutions of government, pakistan will be stuck where it is today, which i think is still on the property -- poverty scale of one of the worst countries in the world, may be the third or fourth at this point, but also
in terms of corruption, it ranks slightly above somalia and north korea. if we are ever to see real progress, but it has got to be at the point with institutes of afghanistan can be rescued from the criminal capture of organized crime, and the unwillingness tends to do the right thing for each other and their country. finally, on the issue of middle east funding, i spent a lot of time with our intelligence services and bruce may have a similar or different view and try to pinpoint the exact origins of funding for the taliban. it is difficult to do. large amounts of money come out of the gulf. i cannot believe it is state-sponsored. i did not believe it when i was commander and since i had the opportunity to spend in a couple different places where i had to deal with it and i do not believe it is state-sponsored. i do believe there are key individuals providing funding, and in order to solve that, it
is about getting after the financial system that makes it difficult for that to occur, but also cooperating with the national governance in the gulf, the monarchy and to put pressure on the individuals that might be doing it. i watch with great interest in the summer of 2012 as syria exploded, as the civil war, and i watched the funding be diverted from the gulf into syria, and the funding levels for taliban plummeted and became difficult in the summer of 2012 for the taliban took the of the kinds of ied's, rpg's, etc., and it changed the operational balance, so it is not insignificant, the funding going into the gulf. with regard to the border incident, i'll not to talk to separately. i have strong views. it was an unfortunate incident and we expressed our regret. i am still in prayer over the lives of the lost pakistani military troops, but the shooting did not start on our side.
i will tell you that and get that out since you chose to make your comments, as well. it did not start on our side of the copy on the boat, sadly. had we had better trust, been bred organized in our joint coordination centers, we probably could have solved it before the heavy shooting started and we would have prevented the outcome that we ultimately had, which for all intensive purposes, lost is nine months of operation with pakistan, it's good of an viable to the progress of the war and we regret those losses of the pakistani military. michael: thank you. bruce, final point. bruce: i will make two points. first, the united states inherited the longest war in american history, and these upcoming debates with the presidential and vice presidential, incumbent on these people because of what they would do about the war. we need something serious, a real debates on what the united states will do in afghanistan
and pakistan. the issue remains serious are many reasons that you already heard and i will add one more. al qaeda has been disrupted and dismantled significantly in pakistan in the last seven years. the one fact way about al qaeda is it is resilience. as we take off the pressure on al qaeda and afghanistan and in pakistan, we will see the resiliency once again. second point is about funding. the general address that issue carefully and correctly. it is a murky area, but a substantial amount of taliban funding comes from rich, private donors and the goats states. there is the accident about the 18 tips to the bar because it is one of the least governs spaces and local gulf states. united arab emirates is supposed to be a country and anyone who has visitedseven countries and
dubai is in difficult relations in many ways. we need to put considerable efforts talking with the government of the gulf states and others to persuade them to take the kind of aggressive actions against funding for the afghan taliban to have already taken for funding for al qaeda. michael: thank you. in addition to what you have heard today, we are producing this paper that general alan referred to us tos wraps and that -- to ask the s wraps. let me just thank all of you for being here. please join me in thanking our panel. [applause] [captioning performed by the national captioning institute, which is responsible for its caption content and accuracy. visit ncicap.org] atexpense coverage begins
7:00 on the washington journal. you can join the conversation. we join president obama live from the white house. where live from new york city with a ceremony at the national memorial. we go to the ceremony at the pentagon. at 10:00, we will be in pennsylvania for the commemoration at the flight 93 national memorial. we will return to new york for the remainder of the ceremony. secretary of state john kerry and the foreign minister of russia discuss efforts to get all sides to agree to a cease-fire in syria. this is just under an hour.